Jumping Right In #booksnaps

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 12.48.31 PM.pngEarlier this week, I decided that this would be the week to figure out how Snapchat worked. I started off by clicking around (it’s a tried and true method for exploration, trust me), but alas, it wasn’t as intuitive as other apps I’ve used. In fact, I watched two tutorials on Snapchat (thank you YouTube) to get the gist of how Snapchat worked. My hesitation with Snapchat has always been…where are my pictures and videos going?!?! I’m still not quite sure…right now I have a couple in My Story section, but I don’t think I’ve actually sent anything out. Of course, it could be because I only have four connections on Snapchat at this time.

But I persevered because I really wanted to try creating a #booksnaps. As an avid reader, I’m always coming across things that I highlight, mark-up, or make note of…so I thought, “Why not do this digitally?” This past summer, I was lucky enough to vacation on a lake for five weeks…plenty of time to read and sketchnote. It was pure bliss. But now I’m back to reality…and the craziness I call my life. Sketchnoting will always be my preferred method for a creative outlet, but now that I’ve tried creating a #booksnaps, I’m hooked.

Having seen the awesomeness of #booksnaps, I decided to try it with my GATE/PreAP kiddoes. This activity was perfect because I wanted students to examine primary and secondary sources about the Crusades…and I thought, “Booksnaps? Why not? Why NOT?!?!”

On to Thursday Period 6.

I introduced #booksnaps to my students. I showed them an example from @TaraMartinEDU. They joined our Seesaw class so they could use the emojis, text, and the drawing tool. And then they were off…highlighters, documents, and iPad in hand. My students aren’t new to document analysis, annotating, or the use of emojis to demonstrate understanding…at this point in the semester, they are old hands at this type of task.

My students have been posting their #booksnaps in our class Flipboard  magazine and I have to admit that I’m super stoked! If you get a chance, check out their first attempt at #booksnaps and feel free to leave a comment. They will be so tickled!

#30daysblogging Jumping in With Both Feet

I love it when a plan comes together. I recently discovered Recap (@RecapThat) and by recent I meant just this past Monday…when I was poking around on a friend’s blog (http://comeongetappy.com). Thanks Jody (@peerlessgreen)!

My first inclination was…What the heck?!?! How did I miss this? And the reasonable answer is…it’s easy. There are so many awesome tech tools that appear on a regular basis that it’s hard to keep up. But that’s why it’s so important to develop a Professional Learning Network (PLN). But that’s a topic for another time.

Back to Recap.

We all know the importance…the imperativeness (is that even a word?)…of using formative assessments to check for understanding. We also know that some students need individualized help.  Recap does just that. Teachers can create a short video or text-based question and push it out to the whole class or certain students. Students then record a clip of their answer.

Teachers can choose the maximum level for the clips (e.g., 15s, 30s, 60s, or two minutes). This is helpful for students who like to talk because it forces them to be concise. It’s also comforting for the shy students to know that they don’t have to talk for too long. The videos are private (between teacher and student), students can rerecord their video if they’d like, and leave comments if they want.

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The videos are slowly coming in. Some students are choosing to record at home because they don’t want an audience. Others jumped right in today. Some used a cardboard barrier so that their peers couldn’t see their faces. My quiet classes asked for background noise so I softly played music in the background. And then there were the students who showed no fear…they clicked the chat button and recorded right in front of their peers and were done in no time. It was a sight to behold. I would have taken pictures but I sensed a heightened level of tension and anxiety after students found out that they were recording a video instead of typing or writing their answers. So I cut them some slack. For now.

I was so excited about this whole thing that in-between 2nd and 3rd period, I walked over to my colleague who teaches our ELD content vocabulary classes. These classes are for EL learners who are newly arrived to America. I couldn’t help but share my excitement about this app because I saw HUGE potential in helping his EL learners with their speaking skills.

We have about 76% EL learners at my school…so Recap is going to most definitely support speaking skills. And it’s doing it in a way that is different and though I don’t have much experience with this app (yet), I’m a fan. A HUGE fan.

This is why I love technology. There’s no need to subscribe to the status quo when there are so many cool tools and strategies that can make learning fun for students and teachers.

Typorama Rocks!

So today my students had a chance to explore Typorama (@typoramaapp). Before Winter Break, they read, watched, and analyzed various primary and secondary sources about the samurai, their traditions, and the impact of the Bushido Code. Their task was to demonstrate their understanding of a samurai’s life through the use of poetry.

Seeing that this was a unit about Japan, students were given the task of composing both a Haiku and a Tanka. Using their annotated readings and various graphic organizers, students pulled phrases that they could mix and match to create these particular formatted poems.

One might think that this was an easy task…but not for second language learners. Breaking down words into syllables was hard. I gave them the tried and true methods for counting out syllables, such as clapping (but let’s face it, not all kids can clap) and putting their hand under their chin as they pronounced the word. But some of my kiddoes went straight to the Internet. As I walked around the room, I saw students on several sites that counted out the syllables for them. I didn’t tell them to do that, nor did I prohibit it. I mean, after all…if they can find tools to make their work more efficient, I’m not going to stop them.

I loved the looks on their faces when the syllables matched up just right.

Once they had their rough drafts, students opened Typorama…which offered them more options than they knew what to do with. I told the students to not bother to upload their own images but to find something that resonated with them and added to the mood or theme of their poem.

Let me tell you…their projects are turning out really nice!

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The five-lined Tanka is throwing some of them for a loop because some of them want to use a particular font that won’t allow five lines. It was back to the drawing board…because there aren’t enough font styles from which to choose (totally being sarcastic here as there are quite a few really cool freebies). But other than that…this app is great for a quick #funformativeassessment. I would totally use this app again with my students…in fact, I’m thinking that this might come in handy with our next school-wide Character Lesson. Hmmmm (and the wheels are turning)…

If you give students the opportunity to be creative…if you give them choices…if you let them work through the kinks…if you just let them take the lead in learning…they will be all the better for it. Trust me, I know. I see it in my kiddoes…both past and present.

If you want to see more of their work, check out our class Instagram account: @jiishawksrock

 

Train Your Brain

One thing that I’ve learned during my first semester as a doctoral student is that I really don’t know too much about how the brain works. But I also don’t know too much about how my car works either and I’m okay with that as well.  As long as both of them work, I’m good.

But what I’ve enjoyed this semester is learning about how the brain works.  My undergrad degree is in psychology because I love learning about how people think, why they think that, and how that affects their behavior.  In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy working with my middle schoolers.  It’s like living within a social experiment. Every.single.day.  But I bring that up because one of the assignments in my Multiple Perspectives in Teaching and Learning (MPLT) class is to review two websites that are supposed to help train your brain.  As I went through the various exercises for both sites, I was intrigued…interested…motivated…and definitely engaged.  At the end of the first phase for Lumosity, I even received feedback on how I ranked among people of the same age.  Talk about feeding into my competitive streak!  If I didn’t have to go to bed, I probably would have done those exact same exercises again just to see if my percentages would have gone up.

In reviewing both sites (Lumosity and Brain HQ), I have to say that I’m impressed with the individualized learning components.  Lumosity supports individualized learning as you fill out a basic profile before starting the exercises in order to give you a score based upon people in your like age-group.  Brain HQ does not use personal information, but rather from the get-go uses performance to determine components of the activity.  I didn’t get far enough to see if or how my scores compared to other users.

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It’s interesting to use technology in this type of format.  I’ve used brain teasers that are book-based but I did not receive immediate feedback nor was I moved to different levels based on my performance but rather based on choice…not that I was deterred (remember, my competitive streak?).  However, immediate feedback is something that technology can provide which is motivating to the learner.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-9-04-02-pmI’m intrigued by the idea of using technology for game-based learning.  The points, levels, and options to unlock other levels is definitely motivating.  If I didn’t have to go to work this morning, I would have unlocked one more level for sure!  The fact that I’m even intrigued by both of these sites is a testament to their ability to engage the learner.  Believe me when I say that I am not a fan of video games.  I’m terrible…just ask my brother.  Expect for Pole Position.  I rock at that game…you can ask my brother about that as well.  I feel it’s helped to make me the driver I am today.  😉

Lumosity and Brain HQ adapt to the user’s performance.  In both games, the speed and complexity increased when I did well and decreased when I did not.  Lumosity gives immediate feedback (yay!) but I didn’t advance far enough in BrainHQ to see if there was an immediate feedback component.  In fact, the “spot the different bird” game was a bit frustrating to me because I didn’t know why sometimes only a few birds appeared when I clicked versus a whole flock.  Or was that supposed to represent feathers?  Did the whole flock…er feathers…mean I correctly spotted the wrong bird?  Who knows.

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Anyone who has attended my PD sessions knows that I’m a fan of free stuff.  As an educator, I have no problem spending money on my classroom, my students, or my own professional growth.  But I prefer free stuff.  Both Lumosity and Brain HQ are limited free…which is nice.

In evaluating the physical space for learning…because students use devices to access these sites, I don’t foresee any space issues.  However, some students might find it too distracting to use either of these sites with the regular hum of classroom noise.  I would suggest students use earbuds to block out the noise but also cardboard barriers to lessen visual distractions.

I believe sites like these are a valuable enrichment tool, especially for gifted learners, although across the spectrum I suppose these sites could be useful for all learners.  In fact, students who suffer from low-efficacy may be encouraged by using adaptive learning sites.

I believe that video games have a place in learning.  In fact, games that are historically based could help students visualize and remember historical content but having not seen or used any video games for learning in my own classroom, I cannot attest to its true value.  But I do see video games as another avenue for learning.  If the goal is to find something that interests, motivates, or engages students, I think educators need to be open to a wide variety of options.  Educators cannot use their fear of the unknown or bias against their perceived value of technology to automatically write off video games as a viable tool for learning.

#trainyourbrain #gamebasedlearning #yourbrainisamuscle

#InnovatorsMindset Part 4 

“Nothing stops an organization faster than people who believe that the way you worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow.” — Jon Madonna

My quest to sketchnote each chapter as a reflection of Couros’ book The Innovator’s Mindset continues…

Chapter 6 focused on discerning the difference between engagement and empowerment. Truth be told, empowerment wasn’t high up on my radar because I was one of those teachers who focused more on the engagement side of learning. Oh, but I’ve had tons of conversations with my #PLN about teaching skills versus content and I understand the important role that both play in student learning. But what stood out to me from this section is the importance…no, the imperativeness (I hope that’s a word) of empowering my students to truly take charge of their learning. It’s not enough to introduce them to the tools and the content, but rather I need to make sure that each child that walks through my door understands that they have the power of choice. In my department, student choice is actually part of our classroom expectations. And we don’t merely pay lip service to the term either. Using a revised version of Marzano’s learning scales, we’ve broken down the standards by skills: Level 3 – describe/define, Level 4 – analyze, Level 5 – synthesize/evaluate/create. Students choose their level of learning for each unit and complete tasks, assignments, and activities for that level. But what I see that we need to do better is give students choice in what they want to study. Sure, we have standards that students will be tested on (district benchmarks, anyone?) but why not give students the power to choose which aspect of the content they would like to explore further? Because we use Haiku Learning for our classes, we could easily create a place for students to curate their learning. In fact, Flipbook is something that we tried last year at the 7th grade level and we (the teachers) loved it! Actually, our students really enjoyed it as well because they could see the Flipboard magazines from the other World History classes and comment/like what they saw. Hmmmm, and the wheels are turning in my head…

Now because I’m about ready to start my doctorate…and because I’m a HUGE geek when it comes to schooling, I’ve already started to read two of the books for this upcoming semester (I know, I know. Please don’t judge me).

What I found interesting is that Couros isn’t just taking about pie-in-the-sky learning experiences for students; what he’s proposing is supported by research. While Couros (2015) states that “it is imperative that we teach learners how to be self-directed and guide their own learning, rather than rely on others to simply engage them” (p. 1368 eBook), the National Research Council (2000) explains the importance of active learning, “New developments in the science of learning also emphasize the importance of helping people take control of their own learning. Since understanding is viewed as important, people must learn to recognize when they understand and when they need more information” (p. 12). Sounds a lot like empowering students is important in order for them to become self-regulated learners.

But it’s not enough to simply talk theory and what if’s. In order to truly make a difference, Couros next focuses on shared vision-making. What the admins want is nice. What the teachers want is nice. What the students want is nice. But without coming together and creating a shared vision about what learning should look like, everyone is really just out for themselves. It’s not easy bringing many stakeholders together for shared vision-making, but it’s one that is absolutely necessary. And I think that schools (mine included) may need to go back to the drawing board or stay at the drawing board until a shared-vision is created and accepted by all.

Reference:

National Research Council (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school: Expanded edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi:10.17226/9853